Hong Kong parents rank personal character development ahead of academic performance in terms of education outcomes, according to a University of Hong Kong survey released this week. The poll also showed that the performance of Education Secretary Michael Suen Ming-yeung and the Education Bureau barely scrape a pass in the eyes of parents. The survey polled 1,017 parents in January on their expectations from the education system, their opinion about the Education Bureau and how they rated the performance of the education secretary. When asked what they felt was the most important goal of a 'good' education, 30.2 per cent said it was character development - a fraction more than the 30 per cent who felt learning ability and independent thinking should come first. Students' happiness came fifth on the list, with just 5.7 per cent of parents ranking it as their top priority. Mr Suen received an average score of 53.8 out of a possible 100, with the bureau coming in at 50.5. Robert Chung Ting-yiu, head of University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme, which conducted the survey, said the results showed Mr Suen's appointment in July last year had had a positive impact on parents' level of trust in the education system. The poll follows three similar surveys, held in June 2006 and January and June last year, which polled parents on their opinion of Mr Suen's predecessor, former secretary for education and manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung. Professor Li's approval rating had dropped from 51.4 per cent to 43.1 per cent over the three previous rounds of the survey, while the bureau scored 46.5, 48 and 45.6 per cent. However, Dr Chung said that although the scores had improved, there was no reason for Mr Suen or the bureau to feel complacent. 'Fifty points is not a high mark,' he said. 'The government should consider how it can improve.'